Adult Congenital Heart


Although congenital heart disease is, by definition, present at birth, symptoms may not appear until adulthood. Recent advancements in heart surgery have allowed more children diagnosed with congenital heart defects to live into their adult years. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately one million adults in the United States are living with congenital heart defects.
These structural irregularities can involve the heart's interior walls, its valves or the blood vessels that carry blood throughout the body. While some congenital heart defects cause no symptoms, others may lead to life-threatening conditions. Physicians are not entirely certain what causes congenital heart disease; activities such as maternal smoking may cause some defects during development in the womb, but others seem to have a genetic basis.
Types of Adult Congenital Heart Disease

The most common types of adult congenital heart diseases including the following: 


Symptoms of Adult Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects may present in adults with the following symptoms:

  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • A bluish tint to the skin and fingernails (cyanosis)
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Poor blood circulation
  • High blood pressure


Treating Adult Congenital Heart Disease
Many congenital heart defects require no treatment but do require regular annual medical checkups. If treatment is required, diagnosing congenital heart defects is the first step. Diagnosis involves a physical exam to check for symptoms which may be followed by one or more diagnostic tests:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram, a sonogram of the heart
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG), a test of the heart’s electrical activity
  • Cardiac catheterization, a treatment that involves passing a thin tube into the heart